writing for children

The Choice

by Donna Earnhardt (12/6/2018)

 

The moment I choose to worry,

A tiny weed appears.

Then burrowing in my soul’s garden–

it chains me to my fears.

And worry, with talon-like fingers,

rips through my peace and joys.

It strangles my thoughts to silence my song–

Drowns hope in its chaotic noise.

 

BUT GOD…

 

The moment I choose to trust Him,

my King the Eternal High Priest,

untangles my thoughts, restores my heart-song,

and a small seed of faith is released!

God’s perfect love wields perfect power…

His perfect Love casts out all fear –

Now worry no longer can chain me

for LOVE – God Himself — has come here!

 

photo courtesy of Shiftingart Photography (http://shiftingart.com/)

 

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writing for children

Some “Methodist” Ponderings —

Growing up, my family attended a small Methodist church. We went to church just about any time the doors were open.

 

On Wednesday nights, we attended Bible study/prayer meeting. During those meetings, Mr. Luke Diggs (my grandma’s first cousin) was one of the faithful folks who prayed… and prayed… and prayed. I remember thinking he must have been praying for half an hour, when really it was probably only a few minutes. I thought he was never going to stop. A few times, I even asked God to please let him finish praying so I didn’t fall asleep and get in trouble.

But back then, I didn’t realize the depth and importance of what he was doing.

Mr. Luke wasn’t talking to hear himself talk — he was petitioning God on behalf of our church family and our community. His prayers were fervent and from the depths of his soul. They were not for show. They were not offered for man’s praise. They were offered up to the God of the universe, praising God and asking for His blessing and help. There was something powerful about His prayers – and it had nothing to do with the ebb and flow of his words. It had nothing to do with the fact that he could have given any pastor a run for his money.  Rather, the power in his prayers had everything to do with his faith and relationship with the Lord. God’s Holy Spirit flowed through Mr. Luke’s words and his actions.

Then there were Sundays that we sat with our grandma (May Belle Diggs Lassiter). She always had some chewing gum in her purse and taught me and my sister (and cousins!) how to make the little flowers out of the foil wrappers. She sang in her sweet, beautiful voice and pointed to the words so we could sing along and learn to read in time. She was a peacekeeper and a peacemaker. And when we went to her house to eat, she cooked for an army – even if there were only a few more mouths to feed.

There was something soothing about being in her presence. Yes, she was an awesome cook, had the gift of hospitality, and had a precious, infectious laugh. But her soothing, peaceful spirit wasn’t rooted in those things. Nope. It was a direct result of her faith and relationship with the Lord. God’s Spirit flowed through my grandma’s words and actions. God’s love and peace flowed through who she was and what she did.

Even though both of these wonderful folks were members of the Methodist church for most (if not all) of their lives, I can declare with confidence that Methodism didn’t define who my Grandma was and it didn’t define Mr. Luke.

Instead —

the love of Jesus defined them!

And in turn, they shared that same love with those around them, acting as arrows by pointing others to Him.

There are many other folks that I could name who helped me grow in my faith (including my own parents!). I want my children to have memories like that and be able to point to certain folks in their lives and have similar faith building stories. I want them to know who they are in CHRIST. I want them to know that they are not defined by the denomination they happen to be attached to, but rather are defined by the Love of their Creator – for they are created in His image and filled with His Spirit.

I want them to know that the power in their lives has nothing to do with their job position, money, ability to lead, sing, follow, or any other earthly ability. Rather, it has everything to do with GOD’s LOVE FOR THEM. His power, flowing through them, gives them the ability to do things they could never imagine possible.

As I look back on my upbringing, I am glad that I was given a firm foundation. I was taught to keep the focus on the One Who was, Who is, And Who forever will be — Jesus. I hope that one day, I can be a light to others in the same way my grandma and Mr. Luke were for me.

As for the Methodist church? I don’t know where it is heading or what will happen in the coming years. I don’t know if I will remain a Methodist or join another denomination — but I don’t have to know. Why? Because, like the folks I was blessed with growing up, my denomination does not define me… Jesus does. The One who made me — the One who keeps me rooted in His peace — The One Who loves me. Always.

And I say with confidence —

God is good. All the time.

And all the time – God is good.

Can I get an Amen?  

Ephesians 6: 7-14

Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.

 

writing for children

“As long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else…” 

“As long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else… why not?” 

That’s the philosophy we use as human beings to justify doing the things that we want to do. If it feels good… and isn’t hurting anyone… we can find a reason to continue doing whatever it is that makes us “feel good”.

 

But just because something “feels good” doesn’t mean it is good for us, physically, spiritually, or mentally. And just because it’s not hurting us or someone else at that moment doesn’t mean it won’t down the road. Lots of things can feel good that aren’t good for us in the long run. And when we keep going down those roads that bring us a temporary “feel good” moment, we can become entangled and enslaved to those things, running further and further down the road away from freedom. We keep chasing them, looking for the next “high”. Unfortunately, those “highs” are just mirages.

 

Thankfully, God does NOT stop pursuing us. He doesn’t leave us in the holes we dig for ourselves. He doesn’t turn his back on us, even when we’ve turned our back on Him. And He doesn’t wait for us to get things “right” before He loves us. Hear that again… He doesn’t wait for us to get “cleaned up” and “right” before He loves. He loves us… period. Right where we are. He loved us before we even knew He existed… and continues to reach out to us, call us, whispering in the quiet moments that are so hard for most of us… waiting for us to accept his love. For it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance…

 

One of the hardest things is looking at where we are and admitting that it is not the right place. Admitting that we need to change direction. Admitting that we are running from the ONE who wants to help us get home. Because staying where we are and running in the same old direction is easier than turning around and admitting we need to stop and ask for different directions. Admitting we need help and admitting we are wrong can hurt. But only for a little while. It’s like pulling out a splinter or putting our broken bones in a cast. It hurts like crazy to begin with — but then, in time, healing comes.

 

Doing what we want feels good… but only for a while. It’s like riding around with no direction, no rules, nobody telling us what to do. It’s fun for a little bit. We can go where we want, do what we want, with seemingly no consequences… until we run out of gas and realize we’ve been riding around broken and lost and torn ourselves apart in the process.

 

But… God. He isn’t waiting for us to “get it right”. He makes us right. When we break down on the side of our “road”, God is right there, ready to help. He is long-suffering. He is patient. He is kind. He forgives and doesn’t throw it back in our faces. He is pursuing us, even when we are running from Him. He always knows where we are and does not give up in His love for us. He knows every thought… every word… every deed… and He loves us. He wants to give us LIFE. The good stuff. The REAL good stuff. He wants to take us on an endless road trip with Him, letting HIM be in the driver’s seat. Letting HIM fill up our gas tanks. Letting HIM be our guide and keeping us on the road that brings us LIFE.

 

Are you running? God is right there with you. He’s never left you. But maybe today is the day you stop running away from God… and run into His arms.

Luke 15:11-32 The Message (MSG)

The Story of the Lost Son

11-12 Then he said, “There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’

12-16 “So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.

17-20 “That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.

20-21 “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’

22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time.

25-27 “All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.’

28-30 “The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’

31-32 “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’”

Excerpts from Romans 7:15- 20 and 8:1-39 The Message (MSG)
I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.
But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

Romans 8: Life Through the Spirit

1)Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c]And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life[d] because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of[e] his Spirit who lives in you.

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Christian writers · Family · freedom · God · prayer · signs · thinking · writing for children

What is your “Egypt”?

Studying the Old Testament is not always the easiest thing to do. The Lord knows my heart and that I don’t always “get” what He’s trying to tell me. I have to read, read, and read again. Even then, it’s not always clear.

And from what I can tell, I’m not the only one. When God spoke through His prophets, he repeated himself again, and again, and again so His people would get the message. The passage that illustrates this point today is Jeremiah 42.

The Isrealites ask a prophet to pray for them and ask for God’s direction. They say they’ll do whatever He tells them.

God’s answer (paraphrased) — “Stay put in the land I’ve put you. I’m on your side and you have nothing to be afraid of, even though you are living smack dab in the middle of the enemy’s territory. It’s not where you wanted to be, but I put you there and I’ll protect you. I’ve heard your prayer and I’ll deliver you to where you want to go — in my time. But don’t say you want to go back to Egypt. You’ll die there. I’ll bring calamity on you. Again, do as I say and you’ll be blessed. Stick it out and do what I’ve said. You’ve romanticized where you used to be. But I’ve made it clear — DO NOT GO BACK TO EGYPT.”

(I repeat the above is my paraphrase… Read Jeremiah 42 for the actual wordage!)

So, after reading that passage several times, I asked God what He wanted ME to get out of it. I know what he was telling the Israelites. He repeats it more than 3 times in those verses.

God told the Israelites to NOT go back to Egypt — a physical place of perceived and romanticized comfort and ease. The truth is, they’d been slaves in Egypt, but all they remembered was what they wanted to remember — and were tempted to go back to the place God had saved them from. But what did it mean for me?

What in the world could he be telling me?

The exact same thing He was telling them…

Don’t go back to Egypt. 

If I run to places that God has not told me to go – whether they be physical, emotional, spiritual- they are my “Egypt”.

What is yours?

Do you return to old habits that God has freed you from?

Do you run to old relationships that brought “comfort” for a while… but didn’t bring life?

They are your “Egypt”.

When I’m upset, who do I run to? What do I run to? Where does my mind wander when things aren’t going my way? How about you? If it is anywhere other than God — That is an “Egypt”.

When I’m frustrated and angry, do I air my grievances to others before taking them to the throne? Do I try to find comfort in the world’s view of me and get its approval? How about you? That is an “Egypt”.

When I’m in a place of peace and abundance, do I forget where that peace came from and attribute it to some other source? Friends? Money? Status? Good things happening?  Do I forget to praise God in the good times? Or when I have what I need, but not what I want, do I long for something that is not in God’s plan for me? Do you? If so — we’re running away from God and running toward our “Egypt”.

Do you lay awake at night and worry about things, instead of taking them to God – and leaving those cares with Him? Yup… Egypt.

Do you try to manipulate situations so you get what you want, instead of allowing God to work things out in HIS time? That’s an Egypt, too.

I truly believe that true peace, God’s Shalom, can only be found in Him, regardless of my status in life. But does that mean that I am 100% faithful and never turn my eyes to my “Egypt” instead of Him? Nope. Too many times I’ve run back to old ways of thinking/old habits. But running backwards is not way to win the race. Paul slaps down some truth about this very thing in Philippians 3:12-14 (The Message version):

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

That means there’s no time to be running back to Egypt… and no reason to. So why do we keep doing it? Too often we turn back to the things that we used to find comfort in, conveniently forgetting that it is a “right now” comfort, not the “right” comfort.

There is an old Hymn that’s called. Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. I  had only heard the chorus, but there is more to it. Take note of the second verse and third verse.  If we believe those words to be true, we can rest assured that we don’t need to run back to our “Egypts”.

Here are the lyrics:

  1. O soul, are you weary and troubled?
    No light in the darkness you see?
    There’s light for a look at the Savior,
    And life more abundant and free!

    • Refrain:
      Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
      Look full in His wonderful face,
      And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
      In the light of His glory and grace.
  2. Through death into life everlasting
    He passed, and we follow Him there;
    O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
    For more than conqu’rors we are!
  3. His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
    Believe Him, and all will be well:
    Then go to a world that is dying,
    His perfect salvation to tell!

 

But Jesus is THE comforter. He is THE Healer. He is THE Provider. He is THE Author and Finisher of our faith.

So what are your Egypts? What do you need to leave behind so you can run forward in your faith?

 

writing for children

Cozy Mystery Saturday

I’ve been steadily submitting my picture books over the last month or so and wanted to work on something else in my queue. So this weekend, I’m working on my cozy mystery!

It’s set in Stonecastle, a small (make-believe) town in NC. I’m revising the first three chapters before I move forward, but hope to get in 2,000 words today and 2,000 tomorrow. That is a HUGE number of words in two days – at least for me. Some folks can write more than that in a day. But I am in the “turtle-writer” category.

How about you? What are you working on? And are you in the slow lane with me or the speeding down the autoban? Either way – make sure you are enjoying it. Life is too precious to miss out on the beauty around you!

sunset closeup
sunset by God…photo by Donna 🙂
writing for children

10 reasons why Irish is an absolutely awesome language

I am learning Irish (slowly) and read as much as I can about it. I came across this article a while back and wanted to share it with you. If you are thinking about trying it, here are sSome reasons to learn Irish if you are so inclined!

Young, Single, Multilingual

Health warning! Learning Irish will open your mind, win you interesting friends and make you attractive to the opposite sex.I have devoted a large chunk of my career to learning Irish, working with Irish and making a living out of Irish. So I thought it would be fair to put together a list of reasons why I think the language is worth it. Mine are proper linguistic reasons though – none of that starry-eyed sentimental nonsense about the language being ‘beautiful’ or ‘romantic’! So, put your language geek hats on, here we go!

(Many of the features mentioned here are actually common to all Celtic languages, including Scottish Gaelic and Welsh, but let’s not be splitting hairs now.)

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writing for children

Happy Resurrection Day

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb… — Luke 24:1

 

The women arrived with the expectation that the giant stone in front of the tomb would still be in place. When they arrived, it had rolled out of the way.

But if it had not been moved, how did they plan to move it?

I asked my daughters what they thought. They said, “There were guards there. They would have asked them to help.”

I considered that – but I don’t think it is a plausible answer. These were Roman guards — guards who owed nothing to the Jewish women. Even if the women had dared to speak to them, (which I don’t think would have happened), would the Roman guards have agreed to help the women? I don’t think so. They were under no obligation to do so.

The women were under the assumption that Jesus was still DEAD. They weren’t coming expecting the stone to be moved OR for Jesus to have risen. They arrived with anointing oil for his body.

So why did they come without backup help? How did they expect to move the stone? I’ve been praying and asking God to make it clear. I’m sure there are many reasons. But here’s what I’m leaning toward right now, the answer that I hear in my heart…

Even though they knew Jesus was dead — I believe that the women came with EXPECTATIONS.

The truth is, Jesus was dead and they had no way to move the stone.

BUT — they came anyway. 

There was NO plausible way they would be able to anoint Jesus’ body without divine intervention — no way to move the stone on their own and no help to do so —

and they came anyway. They came expecting God to DO SOMETHING to make that happen.

THEY CAME EXPECTING. 

 

Remember when Lazarus died? Mary and Martha were furious and hurt and full of all other sorts of emotions b/c Jesus hadn’t arrived in time like they’d expected Him to do. They had expected Him to come back and heal their brother before he died from the sickness. And when Jesus didn’t, they were distraught. They wept and Jesus wept with them. BUT THEN… when it seemed that all hope was lost, they watched as Jesus raised their brother from the dead.

But this time, it was Jesus in the tomb! Who was going to raise Him from the dead?

They didn’t know —

And they came anyway. They came…

EXPECTING!  

         Provers 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. *

So what about us? What “stones” in our lives need to be moved to allow us to see the miracle of Jesus’ death-defeating power? His resurrection power? His grace, mercy, and truth? When we ask God to do something, is our faith in line with our requests?

Like the women at the tomb — do we come to Jesus EXPECTING Him to do something?

That’s what faith is. It is the HOPE in things not seen… and EXPECTATION that God will do what God does… He saves. He revives. He makes all things new. He makes a WAY when there is not way. He responds to our pain and hurt in compassion and with truth. HE LOVES.

The empty tomb means that we ALWAYS have help in time of need. The one who raised Lazarus from the dead holds the power over sin and death — and moves whatever needs to be moved.

When we shift our expectations and put our focus on Jesus– God’s plan is revealed and no stone can stand in His way. NONE.

What stones are in your way today? God can and will shake what needs to be moved and shaken…

Come expecting!